Djokovic adds to streak vs. Fed­erer

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By HOWARD FEN­DRICH

No­vak Djokovic was won­der­ing, right along with ev­ery­one else, what sort of shape Roger Fed­erer would be in for their Aus­tralian Open semi­fi­nal. At age 38, de­spite deal­ing with a painful groin mus­cle and com­ing off a drain­ing five-set­ter, Fed­erer came out just fine, it seemed, and soon was up 4-1 and love-40, hold­ing a trio of break chances as Djokovic served. Didn’t last. Fed­erer couldn’t sus­tain that level.

MELBOURNE, Aus­tralia — No­vak Djokovic was won­der­ing, right along with ev­ery­one else, what sort of shape Roger Fed­erer would be in for their Aus­tralian Open semi­fi­nal.

At age 38, de­spite deal­ing with a painful groin mus­cle and com­ing off a drain­ing five-set­ter, Fed­erer came out just fine, it seemed, and soon was up 4-1 and love-40, hold­ing a trio of break chances as Djokovic served.

Didn’t last. Fed­erer couldn’t sus­tain that level. Nei­ther his body nor Djokovic would let him.

Cast­ing aside a bit of a poor start dur­ing the ri­vals’ 50th meet­ing, Djokovic stretched his Grand Slam win­ning streak against Fed­erer to six in a row with a 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-3 vic­tory Thurs­day night that earned the de­fend­ing cham­pion a record eighth trip to the fi­nal at Melbourne Park.

“Today was hor­ri­ble, to go through what I did. Nice en­trance. Nice send­off. And in be­tween, it’s one to for­get, be­cause you know you have a 3% chance to win,” Fed­erer said, adding that he dis­cussed be­fore­hand with his team how bad things would need to get for him to stop play­ing. “Once you can see it com­ing, that it’s not go­ing to work any­more, it’s tough.”

Djokovic now leads their head-to-head se­ries 27-23, in­clud­ing 11-6 at ma­jors. Fed­erer hasn’t beaten him at one of the sport’s four most im­por­tant tour­na­ments since 2012.

“I just want to say, re­spect to Roger for com­ing out tonight. He was ob­vi­ously hurt,” Djokovic said. “Wasn’t at his best.”

The No. 2-seeded Djokovic will try to col­lect a record-ex­tend­ing eighth Aus­tralian Open ti­tle on Sun­day against No. 5 Do­minic Thiem or No. 7 Alexan­der Zverev.

Djokovic also can claim a 17th ma­jor tro­phy over­all to move closer to Fed­erer’s record of 20. Rafael Nadal, beaten by Thiem in the quar­ter­fi­nals, is at 19.

In the women’s fi­nal Satur­day, it’ll be two-time ma­jor cham­pion Gar­biñe Mugu­ruza of Spain against 21-year-old Sofia Kenin of the United States. It’s Kenin’s de­but in a Grand Slam ti­tle match.

Clearly, for Djokovic vs. Fed­erer, ev­ery­thing hinged on the first hour or so.

They played on a muggy, swel­ter­ing evening, with the tem­per­a­ture in the high 90s (high 30s Cel­sius) and no breeze to of­fer respite.

Al­most from the mo­ment his wild quar­ter­fi­nal ended Tues­day af­ter he’d saved seven match points and eked past Ten­nys Sand­gren in five sets, spec­u­la­tion swirled about how well Fed­erer would re­cover.

Might the mus­cle is­sue force him to pull out of the tour­na­ment? Why didn’t he prac­tice Wed­nes­day?

As it hap­pens, Fed­erer showed up, of course. And gave what he could un­til the end.

He’s never handed an op­po­nent a walkover across more than 400 Grand Slam matches, never re­tired from any of his more than 1,500 ca­reer tour-level matches.

“I don’t think I would have gone on court if I had no chance to win,” Fed­erer said. “We saw I was still able to make a match out of it.”

In­deed, Fed­erer ap­peared to be man­ag­ing just fine at the out­set.

Associated Press

GOOD MATCH Switzer­land’s Roger Fed­erer, right, con­grat­u­lates Ser­bia’s No­vak Djokovic on win­ning their semi­fi­nal match at the Aus­tralian Open in Melbourne, Aus­tralia, on Thurs­day.

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